Friday 9 December 2016

Remembering Veronica

Published 05/06/2016 | 02:30

Veronica Guerin
Veronica Guerin

Twenty one years ago, Veronica Guerin stood at the front door of the man suspected of orchestrating the biggest robbery in the history of the State demanding to know where he got his money.

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She had interviewed him a few months before and had arranged to meet him on January 24, 1995 - which turned out to be the same day of the IR£3m Brinks Allied heist. He stood her up.

Undeterred she called to his home, even though she knew that by then gardai had him down as their prime suspect for the robbery. She liked to look her subjects in the eye.

A few days afterwards, she reported on her encounters with the man of the "ice cold" eyes. She could not name him because of the risk that he would sue. Her reports turned out to be compellingly accurate and prescient profiles of a man who was as enigmatic then as he is now.

Today Gerry Hutch is a household name, most recently because of the violent gangland feud that has resulted in the deaths of seven people.

Back then, Hutch was hardly known outside of the detectives who had monitored his progress from the north inner city delinquent to a cunning and methodical robber. But Veronica knew he was going to be big enough to warrant closer scrutiny.

She wrote how he denied to her that he was a drug dealer, that he was a loner, and that he was a committed family man. She revealed the startling information that he availed of the 1993 tax amnesty, and disclosed his multiple property investments.

Her conclusion that he would only be brought to book over his taxes, and not crime, was on the money. Chillingly so, because it was her murder 18 months later by the Gilligan gang that resulted in a high-powered elite of crime and revenue investigators being unleashed on the criminal underworld. The Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) is part of her legacy. Although Hutch had nothing to do with the Gilligan gang, he became one of the CAB's early targets.

In the years after her murder, Felix McKenna, then chief superintendent of the CAB, swore in an affidavit what Veronica had been constrained from writing; that Hutch was a suspect for the theft of IR£1.7m from a security van at Fairview in 1987 and for the Brink's Allied robbery.

McKenna served Hutch with a IR£2m tax bill. The chief superintendent later described how Hutch turned "a whiter shade of pale" when he handed over a IR£500,000 bank draft to cover the first instalment. Hutch paid off the rest of his massive bill by selling off some of the property investments that Veronica first exposed in 1995.

Years later Hutch recalled his encounter with Veronica. He was running a chauffeur business in Dublin and claimed to have gone clean but, anticipating a hammering in a TV3 documentary, he gave his one and only television interview to RTE.

In it, he rehashed much of what he had told Veronica years earlier. He denied drug dealing, claimed he made his money in property, admitted he was a convicted criminal but denied having anything to do with the Brinks Allied or Fairview post office robberies.

Of Veronica, he said: "Yeah, I gave Veronica Guerin an interview a couple of years back in 95. Veronica got information off the police that I was selling drugs and she ran an article on it. I went and I met her and we had a conversation, she writ [sic] an article and she told me the police told her I was selling drugs. But when we were finished and she done her research and checked it with other police, she was happy enough I wasn't and she ran that article. But that's life, I mean."

Sunday Independent

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